The widening outbreak at Kwai Tsing Container Terminals has posed new challenges in the battle against the Covid-19 epidemic . The industry is such an essential part of the city’s economy that the terminals simply cannot be shut down completely to cut off the transmission chains. That makes a prompt and effective response to mitigate the risks all the more important. Health authorities are struggling to get some 8,000 workers tested following a worrying surge of 34 cases at the site on Sunday. Thankfully, infections have eased over the past few days, but there are still at least 65 cases in total. With just some 3,400 samples finished since targeted testing began, the pace remains woefully slow. The exercise must be conducted with a greater sense of urgency. Officials believe dormitories converted from containers , where workers eat and rest “like a family” during their long shifts, are to blame. The common facilities linked to a major cluster are reportedly used by some 100 staff belonging to the same subcontractor. The company has suspended operations, with workers either sent to hospital or under quarantine. There are also concerns that some workers may be in contact with those on incoming vessels, although authorities believe infections are more likely linked to the community outbreak. Public health must come before the economy. While the port outbreaks may not seem to warrant a complete shutdown at this stage, it depends on whether enhanced health measures, such as improving hygiene and reducing the mixed use of resting areas, can effectively bring the situation under control. Officials concede the long working hours make the resting facilities indispensable. That means every effort must be made to curb transmissions or the container port may risk partial or full closure. Such an outcome is economically unthinkable. As with other high-risk premises and industries, the environment is just a contributing factor. Understandably, the extended restrictions on sit-down meals and social distancing may further damage livelihoods and businesses, but unless we bear the short-term pain and curb the spread, the costs will only grow.